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12 News Defenders: Avoid Cell Phone Bacteria

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - In the middle of cold and flu season, most of us are careful about what we touch. Otherwise, we could get sick. But what should we do about things we have to touch? Like our cell phones?

It turns out, germs on cell phones could be putting some people's skin health at risk.

It's the one accessory you never leave home without.

"My cell phone is with me 24-7," said one viewer.

"It's in my purse, my children are playing with it, I bring it into the bathroom," said another.

And that means nasty little organisms may be hitch-hiking from one surface to another. Then, we apply our cell phones directly to our faces.

To find out what might be lurking on your cell phone, the 12 News Defenders went to a lab to have some phones tested. A lab technician swabbed the phones, then incubated the swabs at body temperature for 3 days.

We found bacteria that cause Staph, Strep, and other infections. But don't get too concerned.

[ON THE WEB: What is Staph bacteria?] 

[ON THE WEB: What is Strep bacteria?]

"This stuff is not harmful," explained lab tech Joel Bracey. "It occurs naturally in the environment. So people don't need to be afraid of their cell phones just because I found staph on there."

Our dermatologist wasn't surprised by the findings either. But she has added a few extra questions about cell phones when examining patients for acne.

"One consideration when a patient comes for the treatment of acne, especially if it's along the jaw line, is to ask them, 'What side do you talk on your cell phone? Do you talk on your cell phone often?" explained Dr. Laci Theunissen.

"The constant pressure and contact of the cell phone, along with the bacteria found on the surface of phones can aggravate the skin and add to acne breakouts."

Doctors say athletes who use chin straps often have the same problem.

"If you think about all the cell phone goes through in a day and then you keep it on your face talking on it, you can see how bacteria can be transferred," Dr. Theunissen said.

What can you do?

So don't live in fear of your phone. But do take precautions.

For example, you can cut down on bacteria with an occasional alcohol swab or antibacterial wipe. You may also want to using headphones to keep the phone's surface away from your skin.

And as always, wash your hands often.

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